Emily O'Brien

Associate Professor
Office: AQ 6240
Telephone: 778-782-3150
Email: eobrien@sfu.ca



I came to SFU in the fall of 2005 as a lifelong easterner. I grew up in Toronto, did my B.A. at the University of Toronto and then headed south to Brown University in Rhode Island for my graduate work. My research interests in Renaissance Italy took me still further east to Rome and Florence, where I spent almost three years. While finishing my thesis, I taught for several years in Harvard's Expository Writing Program. I received my Ph.D. in History in the spring of 2005.

Research Interests

Though Canadian born, I consider Italy to be my true intellectual home. My central field of research is the Italian Renaissance, and my particular focus is fifteenth-century humanism, politics and the papacy. My work so far has centred on the writings of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II, 1458-64). I recently published a book on his autobiographical account of his pontificate, and I am currently working on a Latin-English edition of his (and other humanists') novelle. While continuing to study Piccolomini’s writings, my current projects also include the Renaissance reception of Cicero and the politics of Neo-Latin historical epic.


The Two Lovers: The Goodly History of Lady Lucrece and Her Lover Eurialus. Ottawa: Dovehouse Editions, 1999. Edited with Kenneth Bartlett.


“Arms and Letters: Julius Caesar, the Commentaries of Pope Pius II, and the Politicization of Papal Imagery.” Renaissance Quarterly 62 (2009): 1057-1097.

 “Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini’s Chrysis: Prurient Pastime or Something More?” Modern Language Notes 124 (2009): 111-136.

 “The Politics of Painting: Cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, Pope Pius II, and the Frescoes of the Piccolomini Library.” In From Florence to the Mediterranean and Beyond: Essays in Honor of Anthony Molho, edited by Diogo Ramada Curto, Eric R. Dursteler, Julius Kirshner, and Francesca Trivellato. Florence: Olschki, 2009, 1: 427-444.

“The Conciliar Histories of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini.” In Councils and Reform: a Fifteenth-Century Legacy Revisited, edited by Gerald Christianson, Thomas M. Izbicki, and Christopher Bellitto. Washington D.C.: Catholic University Press, 2008, 60-81.

Areas of Graduate Supervision

Late Medieval and Renaissance Italy – intellectual, Church, political history

Teaching Interests

Late Medieval and Renaissance Europe; Medieval and Renaissance Italy; the history of historical writing; the city of Rome, antiquity to the present day


  • Small SSHRC Research Grant, 2016
  • Small SSHRC Research Grant, 2009
  • Best Unpublished Manuscript Prize, Society for Italian Historical Studies, 2006
  • Simon Fraser University President’s Research Grant, 2005
  • Simon Fraser University Endowed Research Fellowship, 2005
  • SSHRC doctoral fellowship, 1995-96  
  • Fulbright Fellowship to Italy, 1994-95  
  • Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities, 1991-93                      

News about Emily O'Brien